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Sedimentary ancient DNA reveals a threat of warming-induced alpine habitat loss to Tibetan Plateau plant diversity


Liu,  Sisi
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Kruse,  Stefan
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Scherler,  Dirk
3.3 Earth Surface Geochemistry, 3.0 Geochemistry, Departments, GFZ Publication Database, Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum;

Ree,  Richard H.
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Zimmermann,  Heike H.
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Stoof-Leichsenring,  Kathleen R.
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Epp,  Laura S.
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Mischke,  Steffen
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Herzschuh,  Ulrike
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Liu, S., Kruse, S., Scherler, D., Ree, R. H., Zimmermann, H. H., Stoof-Leichsenring, K. R., Epp, L. S., Mischke, S., Herzschuh, U. (2021): Sedimentary ancient DNA reveals a threat of warming-induced alpine habitat loss to Tibetan Plateau plant diversity. - Nature Communications, 12, 2995.

Cite as: https://gfzpublic.gfz-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_5007281
Studies along elevational gradients worldwide usually find the highest plant taxa richness in mid-elevation forest belts. Hence, an increase in upper elevation diversity is expected in the course of warming-related treeline rise. Here, we use a time-series approach to infer past taxa richness from sedimentary ancient DNA from the south-eastern Tibetan Plateau over the last ~18,000 years. We find the highest total plant taxa richness during the cool phase after glacier retreat when the area contained extensive and diverse alpine habitats (14–10 ka); followed by a decline when forests expanded during the warm early- to mid-Holocene (10–3.6 ka). Livestock grazing since 3.6 ka promoted plant taxa richness only weakly. Based on these inferred dependencies, our simulation yields a substantive decrease in plant taxa richness in response to warming-related alpine habitat loss over the next centuries. Accordingly, efforts of Tibetan biodiversity conservation should include conclusions from palaeoecological evidence.